A NORTH-East theatre has been given £1m to help keep its doors open amid the coronavirus crisis.

The grant for Darlington's Hippodrome means it will be able to offset losses from cancelled productions – including this year's pantomime – retain staff and support the current programme.

The theatre reopened in September after a six-month closure and is running a timetable of socially distanced events and activities, including backstage tours, classes in drama, dance and art for young people and adults, and classic cinema screenings.

Councillor Andy Keir, Darlington Borough Council’s cabinet member for local services said: “Arts and culture are of vital importance to the local economy and to the wellbeing of Darlington residents.

“Our much-loved Edwardian theatre, Darlington Hippodrome, is integral to the cultural landscape of the town and the wider region, and we are thrilled that this grant, alongside continued funding from Darlington Borough Council, will help secure its future.”

Heather Tarran-Jones, the Hippodrome’s director of programming and development, said: “We are delighted and relieved to receive news of this grant this morning.

" Our sector has been hit hard by the pandemic and we are very grateful to receive support from central government, administered through ACE, as part of a £1.57 billion package to protect the UK’s culture and heritage sectors from the economic impacts of Covid-19.

“I am proud that as a venue we have continued to deliver activity throughout this crisis, first online and, since September, in our beautiful venue.

"This grant will mean that these activities can continue, but we still need the support of the public, and want to thank everyone who has helped us, whether by a donation, a ticket to an event, or a cup of coffee in the Hippo Lounge.”

The funding came from the Arts Council England (ACE) Culture Recovery Fund and was the largest grant in this round of funding.

A total of £257m was awarded to organisations last week, with another £76m announced on Saturday.

Among the other organisations in the region to benefit from the latest hand-out is Thornaby-based ArtAV, Saltburn Community and Arts Association and Stockton-based Stellar Projects.

Middlesbrough nightclub Spensleys Emporium, Stellar Projects and Ten Feet Tall were also given funding.